Murder your darlings

~Arthur Quiller-Couch

Today we move onto the second/third/fourth/however many revisions it takes of the creative process. We’re talking about editing.

Stephen King’s On Writing has the advice that he was given as a young boy: Second draft = First draft – 10%. Which is great advice, except that I’m currently fixing some plot holes and developing plot lines, which is only adding to my novel. In a big way. When I’m happy with everything with the plot, characters and development, then I’ll do another edit where I trim everything down and make it the best that I can. But for now, I’m fixing things.

Luckily, having a novel in edit makes these next set of questions rather easy to answer, rather than having to imagineer something that I will edit in the future.

  • How soon in the story does the death occur? Can I make it any sooner? Would that be a good idea?

The death occurs roughly two-thirds of the way into the story, and I shouldn’t really make it any sooner. It’s the classic death of the mentor, so it needs to be when the Main Character has grown up and learnt loads and become very emotionally attached to the mentor, and the death paves the way for the next stages of their development.

  • How many red herrings or false dawns occur? Do I need more red herrings or false dawns? Or fewer? Are mine credible?

ClassicStorytelling-updated2I think I have a couple of false dawns in there, where stuff looks like it might be going in the right direction and then doesn’t for one reason or another. I also have a couple of red herrings, not so much as red herrings precisely, but there are some slow burning questions that get established early on, to which the answers are very slowly revealed throughout the book with careful research and uncovering.

<I have a suspicion that this list was written for mystery/crime/thriller novels, since the next three questions are about suspects, threats and clues.>

  • How many suspects are there? Do they all have a strong enough motive, and some opportunity?

Well, I have a villain, and I’ve certainly given them lots of motive and a decent whack of opportunity, but they don’t commit a crime, they’re after other things. But it’s mainly in the latter part of the book which I haven’t edited yet, so there’s definite room for improvement, and I need to seed it in earlier scenes.

  • How pressing is the threat? Is there a sufficient sense of urgency and have I built the tension by showing the inevitable progress towards some dire event?

Well I’m not writing a thriller, so my answer to this questions is limited. There is going to be a threat, and I am going to work to work on the sense of urgency and threat. The bare bones of it are there, but it does need work.

  • Where in the text have I concealed my clues? Do those paragraph’s read like normal prose, or is it evident that they are pivotal?

DramaticArcThis bit is more relevant, because the clues related to why the Main Character is what she is. In this re-write I am going through and seeding more clues, and adjusting the pacing of finding out, because in my first edit I didn’t actually think of the reason until near the end of the novel, so everything got rushed out at the end. Now, in the edit, I get to go back and put in clues, hints and discoveries towards the beginning and middle, and culminate in the conclusion, rather than rushing it out all at the end.

  • Is the middle sagging? What can I do to give it impetus?

Well it was, but I’ve already edited the middle, and I added a big accident where the main character causes the deaths of some people through her actions. It’s great for character and social development, and will continue to cause a lot of drama throughout the rest of the novel as well.

  • How close to the end does the denouement occur?

I’ve got what would be termed a ‘cool-down’ chapter at the end of the book, and I’m going to work on spreading out some of the denouement, but mainly it occurs in the penultimate chapter where the MC’s friends have to work stuff out to put everything right again whilst the MC is in a magically induced coma (it less cliché in the book, I promise.). And there is more than enough action in the final part, there’s the thing that puts the MC into the coma, the reaction of friends afterwards, and the fixing part. I mean, I haven’t yet edited it, but it’s a good start.

And there we go! Seven days of writing, over and done with. The booklet ends with a little page saying ‘Good Luck!’, which I think is a lovely thing to end on. I mean, I’m going to have to find something else to write about now, since I am far too used to daily posts, but tomorrow is Thursday, which means dragon day, so come back for that.

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